Skip main navigation

Valuing diverse forms of contribution

In this video, John Gilroy and Denise Beckwith share different perspectives on disability and contribution.

In the above video, John Gilroy and Denise Beckwith describe some of the diverse ways that people with disabilities contribute.

As the video presenters illustrate, people with disabilities are making valuable contributions to society, but these contributions are sometimes not recognised by the wider community. Often this is due to a lack of awareness, or to a range of preconceptions about disability and contribution. Let’s explore an example of such preconceptions, and how they might be combatted.

Don’t DIS my ABILITY was an educational campaign in New South Wales, Australia, which ran in 2015. The campaign aimed to challenge preconceptions around disability. By using disabled ambassadors, and organising many events, the project focused particularly on helping non-disabled people to recognise what people with disabilities have to offer.

Have a look at their website and think about what kinds of contributions are being emphasised:

In one of their videos, “Don’t DIS my ABILITY — Say it to my face”, school children respond to photographs of two people with disabilities. All the children’s comments assume that neither person will be able to do anything much, and that they just need pity. Then, the children are introduced to the people in the photos — one an actor and the other a Paralympic gold medallist. Afterwards, the children talk about how interesting both people are and clearly recognise the contributions they are making. This example shows what a potentially powerful campaign this has been.
At the same time, Don’t DIS my ABILITY focuses on showing people with disabilities that make the same or similar contributions to society as non-disabled people. They are shown as equally productive and useful members of their communities. It is incredibly important to value these more ordinary forms of contribution. We explore this theme further in the Thinking through Disability course, where we critique common assumptions that people with disabilities are “brave” and “inspirational” and discuss the importance of valuing an “ordinary” life.

Talking points

  • What are some of the diverse ways people with disabilities are contributing to society?
  • What are some of the reasons why diverse forms of contribution are not always valued?
  • What preconceptions about people with disability being able to contribute have you witnessed in your own context?
  • Do you think campaigns like the Don’t DIS my ABILITY campaign are helpful?
  • Do disabled people need to be extraordinary in order to be seen as contributors? Or is there a benefit to valuing more ordinary forms of contribution?

As the clip with the school children shows, people with disabilities can be assumed to be unable to contribute to society at all. But the clip also raises the question we discussed at the beginning of the week: Are there other kinds of contributions that we also need to value? In the next step you will explore some possible answers to this question.

This article is from the free online

Disability and a Good Life: Working with Disability

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now